Oh Yeezus. And after all that hype.
Kanye has released his ninth studio album after much delay, but equally as interesting is the religious journey he has stridently embarked upon. He has now established a “church”, complete with sermons and a choir, that has traveled outside LA to the far exotic reaches of Dayton and Detroit. While these have still been more or less Kanye performances, with all the similar Kanye rants, he appears to have genuinely bought in on the religious idea; he claims he plans on scrapping “secular music”, and even went so far as making homeless shelters in his backyard until they were demolished by the city.
Jesus is King starts with a gospel choir that one might normally hear in a Baptist church. Interestingly, we don’t hear actually Kanye until the second song, Selah, where we get a contrast from Kanye's dark place of expectation to a resounding answer from the choir that “shows” him the might of God. He then interlaces his own voice with a back beat that brings in the rich African influences of soul music. Follow God has a beat that sounds like it could be off Graduation, yet includes references to Father Stretch my Hands off Pablo, arguably where he first truly experiments with religious imagery, and ends with the same screech from Yikes off the ye album. This perhaps builds into the chronological narrative of where his religious influence comes from, as well as refers to how his father seems to not approve of his actions. After this, both the narrative and the quality drop off. While there are some gems after Water, the continuity of storytelling that Kanye albums are famous for is far gone by this point.
As for the overall quality of the album, there are some things he does well and other parts that fall flat; Kanye is known for his sampling, and he utilises this in a few songs, like Water and the saxophone in Use this Gospel, but it’s not consistent. The biggest glaring flaws in many of the songs are his lyrical metaphors, which tend to be that of most Christian rap and suffer from being very surface-based. The only interesting use of lyrics is his talk of the 13th amendment, which he does on two tracks - however, rather than going further into criminal justice reform, Kanye uses it more as a throwaway line. Hands On and Selah both comment on how Christians have had severe doubts about Kanye’s sincerity, but this seems to be the only real lines that are well done. The production quality is good, but some of the creative choices have made it come off as cheap at points, like the sci-fi background of Everything We Need.
The album seems incomplete. To me, it seems like Ye, a short album that should’ve been a mixtape. The entire album is 28 minutes long, which is nearly 20 minutes shorter than Cruel Summer. The album is very experimental, and it didn’t need to be - Kanye has produced music in the past with religious messages and imagery that don’t suffer in quality, i.e. Can’t Tell Me Nothing or Never Let Me Down. I think there was a lot of rushing around this album and this hurt its overall quality, with late edits literally happening the day before the release.
The album is not bad, but could have been done better. Rather than rushing to make the numerous deadlines he inflicted upon himself, Kanye should have just not announced it until he was ready. This album was an experiment into a new genre, and rather than just saying it was a mistake, I’d like to think this is a trial-and-error. Hopefully, if we pray hard enough, Yandi might drop one day, but until then we must wait to see what's next.
Kanye works in mysterious ways.